HIAWASSEE, Ga. — The saying that one would rather be lucky than good applies to many situations, especially so in fishing. Brett Preuett of the University of Louisiana at Monroe endured a string of bad luck today, but managed to knock out opponent Bentley Manning of Tennessee Tech. Preuett lost several keeper-size bass, but most notable was the fact that he fished more than four hours with two hooks from a 2/0 treble hook lodged firmly in the back of his neck after an errant cast. The hooks had to be removed by a doctor.
“I tried to make a long cast in a hurry, but left too much line out and snagged myself in the neck. It hit so hard that it straightened out the split rings,” he said. “But, I wouldn’t stop fishing for anything. If I had a toe cut off I’d probably try to keep fishing because I love it so much.”
It’s that drive that’s gotten Preuett this far, put a limit weighing 9-5 in his boat today, and got him past the bad luck he endured today, but his fiercest competition comes tomorrow.
“I’ve got to catch ’em much better than I did today; it’s going to be a battle,” he said. “I know that B.A.S.S. made (the championship and bracket) this hard for a reason; it’s got to be tough to make it to the Classic. Zach’s a great fisherman, so it should be tight tomorrow.”
Preuett said that the most difficult obstacle for him to overcome tomorrow is execution.
“I’ve got to capitalize on my bites and put fish in the boat,” he said. “That’s been hurting me, and I know Zach’s going to catch ’em tomorrow, so I’m going to have get each bite into the boat.
“Everything’s on the line, and I know I’m on the right fish to win this thing, so that makes me feel better,” he said. “No matter what, I know everyone’s proud of me, but I do want to win for all the people sending thanks and prayers, and I just want to come through for everybody.”
Preuett sent Manning packing today, but Manning says that he’ll be back since he still has several years of eligibility left. Manning weighed two fish for 4-11 today.
“I didn’t lose a fish today and put every one that bit in boat. Two were short, and I did everything I could. I fished quite a bit of new water today because I thought I figured something out yesterday, but apparently I didn’t,” he said. “But, the whole experience has been awesome. This has been one of the toughest lakes I’ve fished on, and the first couple of days me and my partner whacked ’em, but the last few days have been hard.”
Opposite of Preuett’s bad luck has been Bethel University’s Zach Parker. He’s not lost a fish for several days, and everything has gone his way so far. His 5-fish limit of 9-9 bested Tennessee Tech angler Robert Giarla’s single fish that weighed 1-5.
“I only got six keeper bites, and I think I’m going to change some stuff up tomorrow,” Parker said. “I saw some stuff today that I think will help me tomorrow if I can adjust to it. The lake is changing a lot, and I think it’s changing right now, so I’ve got to make some adjustments to keep it going.”
His early morning spot has been key the last two days, and the hole seems to keep replenishing overnight. His biggest decision tomorrow will be whether or not he stays the course and start there, or take a new approach to an ever-toughening Chatuge.
“I didn’t let up today, I fished hard all day and everything just fell into place,” he said. “The Lord blessed me with my fish, and hopefully tomorrow will be another good day.”
He stressed that zigging when Chatuge zigs is paramount.
“Tomorrow, the most important thing will be making adjustments. I had two fish over 3 pounds blow up on my topwater and that hasn’t happened all week, so even not catching those fish tells me that if I get bit, it’s going to be a bigger one.
“You can’t be worried about anything. You’ve just got to go out there and fish your best. It’s whoever can figure those fish out that day,” he said. “This afternoon, having those fish blow up gave me some confidence in throwing that topwater tomorrow.”
Unlike Parker’s inexhaustible honey hole, Giarla seined shallow water but came up short.
“This has been a dream come true, because I never thought I’d ever get here, so to have it happen is amazing. Hopefully my run here gives Tennessee Tech’s fishing team some credibility and maybe even a new sponsor,” he said.
Like Preuett, Giarla had a good run of bad luck today, but couldn’t recover.
“I had two fish spit the bait, one of ’em I never connected with, and basically everything that could’ve gone wrong today went wrong,” he said. “I had five keeper bites, and when you don’t connect this happens. But, I’m not holding my head down one bit. This has been awesome.”
Like Manning, Giarla has a few years of eligibility left and plans on making a return next year.
The conclusion of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Classic Bracket is tomorrow, where either Preuett or Parker will be crowned bracket champ and earn a Classic berth.
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